How could he be more transparent? His wall-size glass window makes him visible for all of Chapman to see, whether at his desk or at his conference table with students.
He’s Jerry Price, dean of students and the face of Chapman University — a face about to enter its 15th year.
The transparency stays, through the good and bad. Price’s list of critics is long.
“He [Price] has overall just seemed a lot more protective of Chapman faculty and staff to try and put them in a good light above promoting student’s best interests,” said recent graduate Valerie Guyant.
But he certainly doesn’t shy away from taking his licks, keeping a policy to never turn a community member away, even if it’s late in the day. His door — just like the view through that giant glass wall — stays open.
“How I interact with students, how I respond to students, how I behave in certain situations is essentially interpreted as, ‘This is how Chapman is,'” Price said. “So I take that seriously, in terms of being responsive to students.”
In 2008, Price and his family packed up their bags after he secured the job at Chapman, making the long move from Texas to Orange County.
He settled his family in Laguna Beach, where his wife became heavily involved in community activities. But eight years ago, Chapman asked Price to uproot his family and move them to Chapman-owned housing in an effort to smooth over relations between students and locals. When asked about the move, Price seemed happy to make such a sacrifice for the university.
That student-focused attitude, ultimately, is his job security. At least that’s how President Daniele Struppa sees it: “Dr. Price understands that our job (as administrators) is not to punish, but to teach.”
And, unsurprisingly, his closest colleagues will go out on a limb for him.
“When I think of Dean Price, I think of how devoted he is to students and their experience. I didn’t even know who my dean of students was when I was an undergraduate,” said Price’s assistant of ten years, Elise Cimino.
It’s difficult to accurately measure devotion. But here’s one positive state of statistics, one he’s proud of even as he downplays his own role:
Freshman retention rates have increased nearly 5% on his watch.
One possible reason why is the implementation of the Fenestra program, a revolutionary student housing program that grouped first-year students with others in their major or area of study.
“Certainly I don’t take all the credit for that,” Price said. “I think a number of the programs and initiatives we put in place contributed significantly.”
Price takes pride in the arts at Chapman and believes the Fenestra program only serves to foster that creativity even further, a sentiment some support.
“Chapman and Dodge [College] really allow for students to express themselves creatively,” said junior film production major Toby Mustarde. “It was an incredible experience to live next to a bunch of other people that care about the same stuff.”
The Fenestra program, Mustarde said, allowed him to find some of his best friends and form what he described as “lasting working relationships.”
Smaller than wider-reaching programs, Price and his office aim to reach students and their organizations directly. Senior and Student Government Association president Philip Goodrich works hand-in-hand with Price daily.
“Honestly, it’s been great,” Goodrich said. “He brings a certain perspective and thought process to our conversations which is really valuable.”
However, Chapman has had more than its fair share of controversies in Price’s tenure. In 2020, the school made national news when now-ex-student Dayton Kingery went on a racist, homophobic rant in the middle of a class. It remains unconfirmed if Kingery was expelled or voluntarily left the university, and Guyant criticized Price for what she describes as inaction and an “unwillingness to publicly condemn the actions of Kingery.”
That can be a common feeling from students — particularly as ascribed to sexual assault cases on campus. Price said his obligation in such situations is to represent both parties, provided they are both Chapman students, equally.
“Students, I believe, think that the role of our office is to be advocates for those who bring those complaints,” Price said. “We are, but only to the extent of advocates for them to make sure that their rights are being met in terms of having their complaint heard and fairly adjudicated.”
Price said he could see how the university’s “objective, neutral position” on cases such as these could be seen as insufficient advocacy, adding a reminder to students that he can support them but not to the detriment of others involved.
Through it all, he’s never regretted leaving his Midwest ties behind to come west to Chapman.
His attitude and his role perhaps is summed up in Price’s own mission statement:
“Remember, college is like any other investment: if you invest in it too conservatively you limit what you get back from it. On the other hand, if you invest everything you have, you have everything to gain.”